Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stream Hike and Geologic Wonders

The Dan River Basin Association's First Saturday Outing on January 3, 2009 was fabulous little two-mile hike along a stream in Ruffin, North Carolina. The hike along Tanyard Creek reveled many of the hidden treasures of this area including a chance to see some very unusual geoligic formations including exposed conglomerate rock from the Triassic period, petrified wood and a picturesque cascading waterfall.

At 10 am on a beautiful "blue bird sky" morning our group gathered at The Happy Home Congregational Christian Church to listen to Will Trunslow and Milton Hundley explain the area we would be hiking too and the wonders we would get to see. A short carpool ride down to the site and we gathered up to hit the trail. The hike was along Tanyard creek with permission form the property owners. The area is on private land and not open to the public except through special arrangement.

Milton Describes the upcoming hike

Tanyard Creek is a real geologic surprise and the weather was perfect for an adventure.

Named for the tannery owned by the family of nineteenth-century governor John Motley Morehead (1796 - 1866), Tanyard Creek creates a gorge as it cuts through Triassic rock on its way to the nearby Dan River.

The group spreads out along the trail. As with all DRBA outings we had quite a large group of hikers and everyone ends up in smaller groups hiking along at their own pace and enjoying the pristine natural surroundings and quiet serenity to be found in another hidden corner of incredible Dan River Basin.

The "puddingstone" conglomerate formation and petrified wood in the stream bed have earned the area's listing as a North Carolina Natural Heritage site.

In the Triassic Era, some 200 million years ago, this section of northern North Carolina and southern Virginia was a deep lake. As rivers flowed into the lake, the slowing water dropped its load of sediment-first the large rocks, then smaller pebbles, then sand and silt. Over the eons, geologic pressures fused the surrounding clay particles, enclosing the rounded rocks and pebbles in a concrete-like mass.

These same geologic forces caused some buried logs to become petrified as minerals replaced the organic matter while retaining the original structure of the wood. Small chunks of petrified wood can be found along Tanyard Creek.

Katherine Mull stops to photograph one of the large examples of petrified wood along the way.

Lines of dark gray rounded boulders, known as igneous dikes, stretch through the woodland along the path to the creek. These dikes were formed when molten rock was forced through underground fissures where it cooled slowly into dense, fine-grained stone that was exposed when the surrounding material eroded away.

Outings and meetings of the Dan River Basin Association are open to the public without charge.

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